More than 477,000 Chinese have a net worth of over US$1 million in 2009, up 31% and control over $1.7 trillion in assets, according to the World Wealth Report from Merrill Lynch and Capgemini. About 250 million people in China can now afford to buy luxury goods, based on estimates by the China Association of Branding Strategy.
It’s no surprise China has attracted an influx of global luxury brands with some arriving in the country in the early 1990’s. China’s luxury retail is now dominated by foreign brands.
Where are the local luxury brands?
They are around but Chinese brands are relatively weaker in higher profiled categories like fashions, accessories, and auto. None of them enjoy the same brand awareness as the top European luxury companies. European companies have invested heavily in brand building and enjoyed global prominence for some time now. A “western” origin seems a given for many luxury product categories. The popularity of domestic luxury brands are generally limited to industries that have deep roots in China’s heritage and tradition such as tea, jade, ginseng, and silk.
Labbrand, a Shanghai-based brand agency, interviewed both industry insider and outsider and came up with a list of the 10 top Chinese luxury brands:
1. NE Tiger
Luxury fashion established in 1992. NE Tiger is considered an icon in fur and leather products. It’s also at the cutting edge of Chinese haute couture offering custom made outfits for weddings and gala events.
2. Chow Tai Fook
One of the most famous luxury jewelry brands in China. Founded in 1929 in Canton and then acquired by Hong Kong entrepreneur Mr Chen Yu Tung in 1956. It combines luxury with fashion and high quality products to appeal to wealthy customers.
3. Kweichow Mao Tai
Established in 1999. Maker of China’s most famous liquor, a drink known in English as “mao-tai.” It is the leading brand in the country. Since mao-tai is often associated with festive events and major celebrations, or is given as a gift, it is a great way for aspiring Chinese to display their wealth. Many considered mao-tai as China’s “Remy Martin,” “Absolut Vodka,” “Hennessy,” or “XO.” It is also a symbol of Chinese culinary culture.
Luxury fashion founded in 1998. Maker, distributor and retailer of quality women’s apparel. Its goal is to become “the Chinese brand equivalent of Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang and Anna Sui.”
5. Erdos Cashmere
Started in 1979. Manufacturers’ export arm for Mongolian made woven and knitted garments, and garment accessories, from cashmere wool.
Founded in 1959. The Company specializes in manufacturing baijiu (Chinese liquor) and related products. Its major liquor product is Wuliangye, which is made from five crops: broomcorn, rice, glutinous rice, wheat and corn.
Established in 1892. The Company offers four categories of products: wine; brandy, such as PEGASE XO Brandy, PEGASE VSOP Brandy, PEGASE 12-year Brandy, XO Brandy; healthy liquor, including Specially-made Spirit of Triple Testis ; and sparkling wine.
8. Yunnan Pu’er Tea
Established in 1975 and privatized in 2004. In 2005, 500g of 64-year-old Pu’er tea was sold at auction for one million yuan, making it six times more expensive than gold.
9. Dorian Ho
Established in 2004 by namesake Hong Kong designer. The Company offers luxury fashion for after-office hours.
10. Xiangyunsha Silk
Shenzhen-based silk manufacturer established in 2003.
The appeal of these top domestic luxury brands is its Chinese heritage, cultural elements and traditional origins. Now, local luxury companies are eager to compete in categories beyond these and on par with foreign luxury companies. Their desire is largely driven by the huge market potential and of course, national pride.
photo courtesy of ne tiger